WATCH: Clay County Voters to Decide on Tax Reduction
In November, voters in Clay County (and also Laclede County) will have the opportunity be the first counties in Missouri to reduce their commercial property surtax rate.
The commercial surtax is a property tax levied at the county level on commercial property only. Unlike other property taxes, it does not adjust downward as assessment value increases, and it cannot be lowered by elected officials. Per the Missouri Constitution, it cannot be raised, and only voters can lower it. To date, voters in Missouri have never lowered a surcharge tax rate, but in November, voters in Clay County will have the opportunity to be the first to do so. The modest reduction Clay County is proposing to equalize itself with Jackson County, in my opinion, is very good public policy, but more on that later.
The tax rate varies by county based on the amount of money the tax it replaced—a commercial inventory-based tax—raised in each county in 1985. If your county had many businesses that generated products subject to the inventory tax, such as Clay County with the Claycomo Ford Plant, you probably have a high replacement tax rate. If you are a county that had a lot of businesses that did not generate much taxable inventory, such as counties in the Lake of the Ozarks region with its tourism economy, you likely have a low commercial surtax rate. But the real issue is that because of the difficulty in adjusting the rate, counties still have the rate based on the economic conditions of 1985.